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Feb 26, 2020

Students & Parents Engage In Community

Building a peace corner for the preK-K class.
Building a peace corner for the preK-K class.

With the school community transitioning to new leadership and the welcoming of new families, engaging together in community building is a priority for the 2019-20 academic year. Check out the student newsletter describing their experience of this process!

Thanks to the support of our families and GlobalGiving community, here are some of our highlights!

Elementary Students Organize Food Drive for Local Nonprofit

The 17 students in the lower and upper elementary classes (grades 1-6) organized a food drive to support a local nonprofit that provides meals, food supplies, and personal care items to individuals in the Christiansted area (Lighthouse Mission). The idea for the student-led service project was sparked during the class' planning for the school's winter festivities. As conversation regarding the Thanksgiving menu and value of gratitude unfolded, the students naturally came to the need to share abundance with others in the community. In Montessori-fashion, the students discussed how they would like to express this.

In small groups and community meetings, the students identified the steps to run a food drive. Older students with more leadership experience helped identify the roles and responsibilites. Students then selected roles to ensure that everyone was included and successful. While some students focused on writing letters to families and requesting donations, others coordinated logistics and organized the incoming gifts of food. The donations were then delivered by another set of students to the Lighthouse Mission.

Community service is excellent leadership development. It helps students practice social skills, cooperative planning and shared work. In addition, these student-led community projects also provide multiple opportunities for writing, research, math, problem solving, and critical thinking. The event was a success!

Families Organize A School-Service Day

Following two school-wide picnics, in which families gather to learn about Montessori-inspired parenting and build community, two parents organized a family in-service day. 

The day included necessary repairs to classrooms, bathrooms, and general maintenance. With 12 parents (roughly 50% of the families at the school) also rolled up sleeves and did a deep clean. The arched ceilings are now sparkling and clear of several months of island grime and dust. 

One student-focused area involved converting an old, indoor plantbed into a peace corner for the 2 1/2 to 6 year olds. While not yet fully complete, the backdrop includes a tree of life with birds singing, and provides an area for conflict resolution and meditation. 

Thank you GlobalGiving community for your support!

Parents model community with in-school service day
Parents model community with in-school service day
Students organize newsletter for school.
Students organize newsletter for school.
Feb 26, 2020

Students Attend University for an Afternoon

What color will a chloride salt make when it burns
What color will a chloride salt make when it burns

A critical component of the student learning experience during the elementary years is the "Going Out" program. The format can be an extension of classroom research, in which students begin by studying concepts in books and then engage community experts, museums, or learning centers. This program can also be an opportunity for the teacher to spark interest and more in-depth study of a topic, as well as an opportunity to engage students in extensions of their classroom lessons. 

One of the unexpected challenges our school experienced post-hurricane was a dramatic decrease in available transportation for students as well as, understandably, many of our island partners experiencing a reduction in hours and staff to support our visits. 

Thanks to the GlobalGiving community and a grant from the St. Croix Community Foundation, we were able to bring students to the University of the Virgin Islands! 

In collaboration with two professors (also Montessori-parents), our students were able to experience a college chemistry laboratory. 

Over the course of two days, the students were divided into Lower Elementary (grades 1-3) and Upper Elementary (grades 4-6) cohorts. The students prepared at St. Croix Montessori for their experience by studying the states of matter (solids, liquids, gas) and periodic elements. A well-worn book in our classroom is a copy of the Book of Elements, detailing each element found on Earth and its common and unique properties and uses! As we do not have lab facilities, the ability to have hands-on experiences of these concepts is fundamental to the students' learning needs. 

As you can see, students were deeply engaged in the laboratory experiments. In addition, they got to experience the life of a scientist for a day!

With your help, they:

  • Engaged in the scientific method (theory, hypothesis, experiment, analysis)!
  • Participated in a demonstration on how gases give off different colors of light and how different salts give different colors when lit.
  • Learned how to practice laboratory safety and the scientific method. 
  • Participated in activities on acid and base chemical reactions.
  • Peppered our community scientists with questions about the elements in the periodic table - and got to see some of those elements in the lab!

With continued support, we can ensure these students have regular educational experiences in the community. 

Thank you!

Testing properties of acids and bases.
Testing properties of acids and bases.
Participating in the scientific method at UVI.
Participating in the scientific method at UVI.
Oct 3, 2019

Increasing Access the Montessori Way!

Kiing presents his collection of maps.
Kiing presents his collection of maps.

St. Croix Montessori is founded on a commitment to remain a quality early childhood provider that is accessible to all families and to create an equitable learning community across every area, policy, and practice of our school – from classroom to leadership.

When Individuals Sponsor A Child

A young student attended an art exhibit and brought along a 3 foot tall puppet of Abraham Lincoln that he had carefully created over the course of a few weeks. His attention to detail, such as the jointed limbs, weighted feet, internal organs, and replica of period-era clothing, was done with found objects (coconut husks and string), a large supply of masking tape, and hours of research at the library, caught the eye of the then Director of the Caribbean Museum Center of Art. She discovered that this student, Kiing, had an unquelchable passion for art, he was self-taught and talented beyond his years, and, dismayingly, that he was being teased at his school for this. The Director came to St. Croix Montessori because she had heard that we often provide service exchanges to families who are below the poverty level and with whom even full scholarships do not provide for all educational costs. She also shared that multiple individuals within the art community had been struck by Kiing's kindness, curiousity, and his artwork. They wanted to support him in being in an educational environment that encouraged and valued these skills.

We met Kiing and it was clear that he would thrive in our school. 

When Kiing first joined St. Croix Montessori, at age 10, he discovered cartography during a geography lesson. In the Montessori style, his interest in maps was fed. He created to-scale maps of the classroom, our school, and the island of St. Croix. He read about different forms of maps and noticed that some look - and are - aged. Kiing's experiments on using tea to make paper look like ancient papyrus sparked a monthlong series of mapmaking across the classroom. Eventually, Kiing created a portfolio of maps that included the stages of Earth's tectonic plates and a scaled-topographical map of St. Croix. He presented his work at the end of the school year this past June.

Several months after Kiing began at St. Croix Montessori, we received a visitor in the office. The former director of the museum had come to share that those individuals who had seen Kiing's watercolors and artwork, and who had met him at the museum, donated to cover his full tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year. The generosity of these donors allowed our school to provide additional scholarship funds to a family with 3 children. 

In addition, Kiing's passion for art and his pieces inspired our school to learn more about the museum curating process. This year a group of students, including Kiing, will partner with the museum to create personal pieces of art, meet local artists, discover how a museum exhibition is created, and assist in hosting a museum exhibition. 

We cannot imagine our school without Kiing. 

We are grateful to those donors who provided for an entire year of education.  

Shifting Models

Our school saw a consistent pattern of student, community, and financial data forming over the past few years:

  1. Annual increases of inquiries to enroll in our programs (rose 300% between 2015 and 2019);
  2. An increase in retention of enrolled families grew from 50% in 2015 to 85% in 2019;
  3. A widening gap of income statuses represented on the island of St. Croix with continued increases to cost of living (KidsCount, 2018);
  4. The total number of families who qualified for a form of scholarship awards rose from 50% of families in 2014 to 77% of families in 2019; while the range of award required expanded from full scholarships ($8,300) to $250;
  5. A widening gap of independent school tuition prices on St. Croix; ranging from $3000 per year to over $15,000 per year; and
  6. A decline, especially post-Hurricane Irma and Maria, in local individual and business donors' capacity to support multiple nonprofit organizations on STX.

While our big hairy goal is to one day provide free early childhood education, St. Croix Montessori faced an opportunity to rethink how we can align our values and our practices with the picture of our island community. 

So, we ran some numbers.

By providing all families a consistent, affordable tuition structure, our school can also:

  • Maintain the excellence and value of what we do;
  • Greatly simplify our scholarship criteria to focus on those who truly could not attend without this form of support; 
  • Enable more families to access our school; and
  • Adopt a stable model that represents what we value and also reflects our local community.

The analysis showed that this model works! 

Our Board of Trustees unanimously approved this bold change to meet the needs of St. Croix’s families while also decreasing our tuition and fees for all families by half! Our leveled tuition and fee model began August 2019 and will continue for at minimum 2 years. 

We expect that over time, we will be able to identify additional improvements.  In fact, the leveled model helps our school have even more consistency across our enrollment process, scholarship awards, and family service agreements. 

Currently, the feedback from our parent community has been extremely positive. 

Families that previously received scholarships no longer need that assistance under this new model. Families reported that they have less stress in meeting their family's needs (inside and outside of school), and that they are more likely to offer additional service hours to help the school. We also experienced an increase in parents seeking pre-school education for their 2 and 3 year olds. Many of whom reported that they never would have walked into the door and discovered this form of child-directed education because they were wary of the potential costs. Our Primary Program classroom doubled in size this fall! 

Thank you to our global giving community for helping us create equitable models of education on St. Croix!

Puppet inspired by Souza's Obama WhiteHouse photos
Puppet inspired by Souza's Obama WhiteHouse photos
Self-portrait done with colored pencil
Self-portrait done with colored pencil
 
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